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Our Opinion: Applause for more dunes enforcement

December 15, 2001

Thanksgiving weekend in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area was a mess. With a shooting, two stabbings, a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger run down while trying to make an arrest and other violence, it is obvious action needed to be taken. It appears action will be taken, thank goodness.

One problem during Thanksgiving was there was not enough law enforcement to handle the estimated 190,000 people crowded into the dunes. Still, a lack of law enforcement has nothing to do with people bringing weapons and hard drugs to the dunes. We cannot see a reason for weapons and drugs in an area meant to be a family recreation spot.

We have heard from people who think we are focusing too much on the violence and not enough on those who go to the dunes for no other reason than to have a good time with family and friends.

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We support the dunes remaining open for recreational use. Still, we cannot close our eyes to the increasingly violent situation caused by a contingent of idiots that seems to grow larger with every holiday weekend. The area is becoming unsafe for families and that is a shame.

Thus, we are pleased to hear from BLM that its expects more law enforcement — perhaps as many as 200 officers — to cover the dunes in the coming New Year's weekend. We hope it will make a difference. We cannot allow such violence to continue. If it does, someone will eventually make the decision to close the dunes. If that happens, everyone loses.

We also urge those in law enforcement to make sure those who are going to patrol the dunes have proper training. There can be crazy scenes out there. Officers need to know how to control the situation in ways that allow people to have fun, but not to the point where they break laws.

It is no easy assignment and is one filled with danger. We hope the upcoming holiday weekends will be much calmer than the Thanksgiving holiday. We hope those who visit our county are here to enjoy themselves in a peaceful way.

Sadly, recent history indicates there are those who go do the dunes to create anything but peace. They are going to ruin what has been and should be an important resource in the Valley and they should be stopped. With more law enforcement presence they just might be.

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